LAIA celebrates community women

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The Latin American Intercultural Alliance (LAIA) celebrated women’s history month and recognized distinguished women from the NYC community – including The Courier’s very own Vicki Schneps.

The event was held on Saturday, March 19 at P.S. 69, located at 77-02 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights. New York State Senator Jose Peralta honored the women for their accomplishment and efforts in their respective communities.

“This is very important, not only for this organization, but also for us as a community,” Peralta said. “Women play a very important role in our lives – every day we need to recognize that women are the ones that give us balance.”

The women honored included Gloria B, DJ 93.1 Amor radio station; Marisol Gonzalez, independent producer; Carmen Velasquez, civil court judge; Nathaly Rubio-Torio, executive director of Voces Latinas; Frederica Jeffries, supervising assistant district attorney for special prosecutions for the Queens County District Attorney; Mariela Herring, Queens assistant district attorney; Victoria Schneps, publisher of The Queens Courier; and Zeta Guendsjian, entrepreneur.

“I am very happy to be one of the honorees and to have contributed to our community as a woman and as a civil court judge,” Velasquez said.

“We as women take on these enormous challenges and it is my honor to serve the communities of Queens,” Schneps said.

“Voces Latinas train the immigrant Latinas in the community to be the leaders, to connect other women to resources and be a support system,” Rubio-Torio said.

“Every day I see what is happening in this community and I try to do the best that I can and I hope I represent my community proudly,” said Herring. “I am honored to stand here with all my accomplished honorees – women who inspire us every day.”

LAIA is a non-profit organization that has promoted the integration of cultures in the New York City community and has offered, among others, Latin and belly dance, children’s art, crafts, and literature seminars.

Also presented was a magic show by David Moncada and the singing of the national anthem by Stephany Caray. The artistic agenda included the Colombian dance group Grupo Café by director Ana Gonzalez, choreographed South Asian dancers, and belly dancing by Amira Elaine with students.

The performances complimented the cultural diversity promoted by LAIA.

“We want to recognize those women who have worked hard to reach their goals and have become role models for all of us to follow and emulate, improving our lives in the process,” said Luz Amanda Giraldo, president of LAIA. “We also want to show that there are opportunities here and organizations that can help.”

Abby Drucker of Jackson Heights, an active member in the local democratic club, attended the event to show support.

“I am a baby boomer and grew up through the women’s movement and we have come to a certain point, but I don’t think we have come far enough,” said Dricker. “It’s very nice that there are award ceremonies for women, but on a day to day basis, I think we have so much more to do.”

An array of artwork was displayed at the event by the senior citizens from the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights Senior Center.

“The seniors have painted with heart and soul, and it is a great therapy for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s,” said Piedad Gerena, art director.

“It is very important that we have a women’s history month like this,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “If you look at this list of people being honored here, from so many different professions, we see that when the door of possibility is opened, women can accomplish anything they want to do.”

For more information on LAIA, call 347-495-3794 or visit